In re Moses, Appellate Case No. 2015–001255.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Citation416 S.C. 1,785 S.E.2d 364
Decision Date20 April 2016
Docket NumberAppellate Case No. 2015–001255.,No. 27626.,27626.
PartiesIn the Matter of Timothy Eugene MOSES, Respondent.

416 S.C. 1
785 S.E.2d 364

In the Matter of Timothy Eugene MOSES, Respondent.

Appellate Case No. 2015–001255.
No. 27626.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Heard Jan. 12, 2016.
Decided April 20, 2016.

785 S.E.2d 365

Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, Julie K. Martino, of Columbia, for Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

Peter D. Protopapas, of Rikard & Protopapas, L.L.C., of Columbia; Alexander M. Sanders, Jr., of Charleston; and Michael J. Virzi, of Columbia, all for respondent.


416 S.C. 2

This attorney disciplinary matter stems from allegations that Respondent Timothy Eugene Moses stole thousands of dollars from his law firm (the Firm) by improperly billing clients. Respondent, who admitted to the misconduct after the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) filed formal charges, appeared before a panel of the Commission on Lawyer Conduct (the Panel). The Panel recommended Respondent be suspended from the practice of law for one year.

Both Respondent and ODC raise exceptions to the Panel's recommendation: Respondent argues his conduct justifies only a six-month suspension, while ODC argues Respondent should be disbarred. As discussed below, we agree with ODC that Respondent's conduct merits disbarment.


There is no dispute over the facts in this case.

Respondent worked for the Firm, both as a summer clerk while in law school and as an attorney following his graduation in 1994,1 until he abruptly resigned in September 2011. The

416 S.C. 3

Firm became suspicious of Respondent when a client contacted the Firm and claimed to have received a bill for $500 from Respondent asking the client to pay Respondent directly, which was in contravention of the Firm's policies. Typically, clients paid the Firm, and the Firm then paid its lawyers a fixed salary, a percentage of profits, or a combination of both. When the chairman of the Firm's executive committee (the Chairman) confronted Respondent on October 5, 2011, about the billing abnormality, Respondent initially feigned ignorance. The next day, Respondent emailed the Chairman and admitted sending the bill, which he termed a “local” statement, in response to the client's request. Respondent said the fact that he may have accidentally deposited the check into his personal account “embarrassed and horrified” him, “caused [him] fits,” and kept him up at night. After “discovering” that he had in fact deposited the check, Respondent immediately agreed to repay the $500, plus interest. He reiterated that he was “extremely embarrassed and mortified” and “[could not] believe [he] made

785 S.E.2d 366

such an egregious error and [he was] just sick about it.”2

About a week later, Respondent met with the Firm's executive committee to discuss his actions. He claimed the two local statements he mentioned to the Chairman were the only times he had billed clients directly and was adamant that those two occurrences were isolated mistakes. The Firm's executive committee, however, remained suspicious and hired a computer forensics expert to examine Respondent's laptop to ascertain whether there were other instances of improper billing.

The forensic examination uncovered approximately $77,000 in improper invoices, dated from August 2009 through September 2011. The computer expert also testified there had been two attempts to “scrub,” or completely erase, the computer's hard drive. The expert said those attempts were largely successful, as there was evidence of other invoices that could not be recovered.

416 S.C. 4

After discovering the extent of Respondent's actions, the Chairman filed complaints against Respondent in Georgia and South Carolina.3 After Respondent became aware he was being investigated, in March 2012, he retained counsel, finally admitted to the theft, and offered to repay the money he stole from the Firm.4 ODC filed formal charges against Respondent on March 13, 2013, alleging violation of the following Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 407, SCACR: Rule 1.15 (safekeeping property); Rule 4.1 (truthfulness in statements to others); Rule 8.4(b) (criminal act that reflects adversely on lawyer's honesty); Rule 8.4(d) (conduct involving dishonesty); and Rule 8.4(e) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice). ODC sought sanctions against Respondent pursuant to the following Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement, Rule 413, SCACR: Rule 7(a)(1) (violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct); Rule 7(a)(5) (conduct tending to pollute the administration of justice, bring the legal profession into disrepute, or demonstrating an unfitness to practice law); and Rule 7(a) (6) (violation of the oath of office taken to practice law).

Respondent appeared before the Panel at a hearing held on October 24, 2013. The Panel issued its report (the Report) on June 9, 2015.5


Because Respondent admitted his misconduct, the hearing was mainly for the purpose of considering aggravating and mitigating factors and recommending a sanction.6

416 S.C. 5

As aggravating factors, the Panel considered (1) Respondent's dishonest and selfish motive and (2) the fact he committed multiple offenses and engaged in a pattern of misconduct over two years. As mitigating factors, the Panel considered (1) Respondent's lack of a prior disciplinary record; (2) Respondent's admission of guilt and cooperation; (3) Respondent's remorse for his conduct, which the Panel found to be genuine; and (4) Respondent's good character and reputation. The Panel considered Respondent's repayment of the stolen money as neither aggravating nor mitigating as it was not timely, being made only at the advice of counsel after disciplinary proceedings had begun.

The Panel appeared to give great weight to the testimony of Respondent's character

785 S.E.2d 367

witnesses: John Bell, an attorney licensed in Georgia and South Carolina; Bob Young, former mayor of Augusta and Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development; and Dan Sisson, former chairman of Leadership Georgia and Leadership South Carolina. The witnesses testified to Respondent's competency as a lawyer, his participation in numerous civic and charitable organizations, and his outstanding reputation in the community, both personally and professionally. They testified Respondent's deceptive conduct was out of character and Respondent was extremely remorseful for engaging in it. The witnesses indicated they did not expect Respondent to engage in similar misconduct in the future and they still had the utmost trust in him.

The Panel concluded that the...

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    ...never responded to the requests.415 S.C. 650 LAWRespondent admits that by his conduct he has violated the following Rules of Professional 785 S.E.2d 364 Conduct, Rule 407, SCACR: Rule 1.3 (a lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client); Rule 1.4 (a law......

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